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Progress Report…

Been a long time between posts. I’m now home back in Sydney, Australia.
And my has It been a whirlwind since my return.
Back at work, sourdough comes second nature to me, the mixing, shaping and baking is not only a process but a way of life. There is a serious art to it and boy did I miss it while overseas.

Since I have been back I have been Fortunate enough to have WIN news film me teaching the Tafe students at Wollongong TAFE how to make Cornish pasties. This was a fantastic experience, never would I have imagined happening when I was once a student in that same classroom. Thank you to TAFE Illawarra for making that possible for me. Kind of like it when you go and people say “I swear I saw you on tv”….

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I then had the wonderful opportunity of hosting this years Sydney Central and northern regions Training Award night at Ryde College. It was my first time hosting an awards night and I’m told I did extremely well. Was so great to tell my story and have the utmost recognition for my achievements to date.

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And finally just yesterday I attended the Excellence in Baking competition held at Hamilton TAFE. It was great to see the work of the talented young pastry chefs from NSW and to catch up with the fantastic members and associates of the Baking Association of Australia.

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It’s great been back in Australia, looking forward to what’s to come.

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Orléans… Loire valley.. France…

This was a great stop over on my way to Paris. It sits in the Loire Valley, at the end of the Loire river famous for its vinegar, as the wine traveling to Paris sometimes didn’t make it and turned to vinegar instead!

It holds what I believe to be the most beautiful Cathedral in France…. I have been traveling to many places all over the world and seen so many churches, buildings and Orléans Cathedral would Have to be my favorite. It’s classic gothic style that was built in 1278 and then again due to partial destruction in the 1600’s.

As soon as you see it it just takes your breath away. It’s elegantly white, stunning when the sun sets on the facade. And then by night… Wow… Here I am in my high heels after dinner thinking should I walk back up to see it. I decided yes so through cobble stone streets I made my way slowly to it. I was even more astounded by its beauty. They light it up with colours strategically placed so to amplify its magnificence.
Inside is all stained glass windows that depict the story of Joan of Arc, the French heroine that once sat in here for mass in 1429.

The cathedral’s stained glass windows now depict the story of Joan of Arc the insides holds much to see and admire.

Please be sure to make a stop into this great city not only for the cathedral but great restaurants, of course the statue of Joan of Arc in the centre and a large variety of specialty shops!

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Next stop Tours,France… Try google that city it’s not as easy as it seems…

Today I’m in Tours , France. I have so far taken myself out to dinner at a nice French resturant to get my Foie gras fix. I also ventured out on a Saturday night in Place plum, part of the old tours where the buildings are made of wood with many cafés and eateries all alive with activity. There was men with goats, bands playing music for all the bucks/hens night parties, seems the theme is the buck or hen has to dress up in the most inappropriate attire and walk the streets much to everyone’s amusement. There is a man on a unicycle who has troubles juggling and later fire breathes whilst drunk still on the unicycle that he often falls off. I have made it to a free outdoor rock concert, with €1.50 wines and many people ready to party all outside a church!
I’ve visited the Musee de Companions, after been taught by Philippe who was part of such an elite group it was interesting to see the grand history and sheer magnificence of the journey mans guild that dates back to over 3000 years ago. The guild vocation is to achieve both professional and personal excellence, promote solidarity between members and is made of Master Craftsmen in every kind of manual work. It was here I saw old peels for the oven, some spectacular bread pieces and many photos of old Boulangers and patissiers.
I then stumbled across a Python exhibition, much to my amazement inside was live boa constructers, rattle snakes, chameleons and many other highly dangerous reptiles.
I then ventured down to the bank of the Loire river, there beholds an outdoor beer garden with a dancefloor been kept warm by many salsa dancers, rock and roll veterans and everybody sipping on wine and beer. Such a great vibe, sensational views and a must go to place for anyone visiting Tours.
I finished my day with a Pete Lindermans Belgium beer and jumped on the line 12 home. Tomorrow I’m off to see the chateaux by bike hopefully the sun comes out for me!! 20140525-202203-73323802.jpg

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Trains, planes and automobiles… How to get around Europe the cheap way…

I’ve been on various forms of transport on my three month tour of Europe. Of course first by plane, my first A380 experience, as a lover of planes that was quite an experience pity I slept most of the trip to Paris.
Upon arriving I was greeted by a taxi, €80 as soon as I arrived just to get to the apartment. That was the first and only taxi I caught in France. I learnt in Wales not to ride the black and white taxi as they make their own rates and quite often go the long way. Best to get the hotel to book you one from their company it’s cheaper and the drivers are kind, helpful and awfully talkative… Good luck understanding them!
I did ride in an English cab once only because I got off the bus about 10min to early after a late night concert in Manchester. He was kind enough to get me home safely and to the right address, bear in mind I had only arrived that afternoon.
When in Paris you will become very affiliated with the Metro. It’s old and has so much character and a life of its own underground. The tunnels are filled with musicians, beggers and everyone is dressed to impress. Unlike American subways or Sydney’s city rail where people dress for work in business attire only to ruin it wearing sneakers with their nice shoes in their bags. The French wouldn’t dare to do such a horrible fashion foux pas. Each station is usually decorated in various different themes, such as the Arts et Métiers that’s like a submarine with portholes and all.
I also became familiar with the London Underground, it’s much cleaner and somewhat more organised than the French metro. Each station looks the same however and their is definitely less French chic.
Then there is the trains, oh so many trains. I’ve travelled Europe with the help of the SNCF network, the app on my phone has become more useful than my calculator. I’ve caught local trains, the TGV many times even by accident, the above ground trains in London. Virgin trains which have awfully amusing toilets telling you not to flush your boyfriend or old phones down it. Then there was the sleeper train from Amsterdam to Munich, now that was a new experience… Built a masterpiece of a cubby house out of the supplied blankets to block out the light only to have them turned off ten minutes later. I’m very familiar with the RER service in Paris, it’s the best way to get to the Eiffel Tower, airport and Versailles. They look so big after riding the metro all week, Just remember not to loose your ticket and don’t go on them with a hangover.
The cleanest of trains would have to of been the ones here in the Loire Valley. They have curved plush chairs, they are clean, new and not expensive to get around.
The excitement of getting on a train ontime, having found your seat easily with a window seat facing the direction of the train, having a power point, having your luggage fit into the luggage compartment and finding the seat next to you isn’t taken has become what dreams are made of. I’ve been first class, second class and whatever class u manage to find a seat. I’ve got the wrong ticket, a ticket saying to Anges instead of Langeais (both opposite directions), I’ve even got on trains with no ticket at all as the station wasn’t open at 7am when I arrived. The train staff are all elegantly dressed, except the metro drivers in Paris wearing casual attire and the Belgium train staff will make u giggle with their hats that make them look like something out of Charlie and the chocolate factory. One thing they do have in common they are helpful, speak “little” English and are quite understanding of the poor Australian girl that doesn’t always get it right.

Then there is the trams, oh so many trams. The French have it sorted from the brand new ones here in Tours that look slick, they have music playing and are spacious and an enjoyable ride around the city. Then you have the trams in Lyon, some with no driver and seem only really small. However remember to check the direction on the map above the station and it’s all In French, however it’s easy to jump these ones with a kind person letting you follow through behind them.

The trams in Strasbourg sing a different tune every station so even if you don’t understand the French you become familiar with the stations by the sounds associated with them. The Amsterdam trams have also been of help and are easy to work out, however be sure to watch for them when your on your bicycle riding around town they can come out of nowhere.
As for buses, well I quickly discovered first hand the 24 hour experience of Austria to Manchester,UK. Your legroom is significantly smaller and I didn’t attempt to go to the toilet that I say would be quite an experience. I’ve never been so happy to get off a coach in my life I have to say the bus lag took me a few days to recover, I was recovering from a five day music festival as well which didn’t help. I also caught the coach from London back to France, this wasn’t so comfortable and you get some very unhappy Frenchmen that don’t get along with the Africans so much but there is free wifi and no stops all the way through pretty good for €30. Remember to put your bag in the right place as it could be fun digging for it when you get off. I’ve been across the English Channel on a boat by coach and through the tunnel by coach. Also my first ride on a double decker bus in London was great, it’s a slow but easy way to see the city!!

I’ve made some fantastic friends on trains and I’ve learnt a lot about the European multiculturalism and seen my fair share of the prevalence of poverty.

All up the Eurostar, TGV, RER, Metro, Underground, above ground, trams, SCNF network is a great way to discover Europe. Just sit back enjoy the sights, be sure to take a train in Switzerland the scenery will amaze you, the metro will amuse you and the trams may confuse you.
It’s all colored and numbered so even after a few drinks you should be able make it home!!

And finally automobiles… Well I’ve been 300km an hour in a brand new Audi R7 on the freeway, I’ve been in antique Volvos that speedo has stopped going after 400k. I have been driven around in skodas, golf gti’s, bakery delivery vans, Renaults, Citroens, Mercedes and many Peugeots. I’ve gotten in the wrong side of the car many times, learnt how to get gps directions in French and I have even literally gone 100miles per hour for the first time in my life.

So all in all I hope to have made u laugh, given you some insight into traveling Europe on a budget with lots of luggage!!! 20140525-200507-72307813.jpg

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Venturing deep into France and all it’s beauty…

I have spent the past week in north west France, the region of Breton and the Loire valley. My first stop was Nante, were I visited Dutchess Anne’s Chateaux, rode push bikes on freeways( later to find that’s what not to do in France) and stayed in fabulous a fabulous bed and breakfast.
I then went to Le Pouliguen, a beach town filled with boats, creperies and boulangerie’s. There is fish markets in the middle of town selling the latest fresh catch, lovely little quaint bars and clothes shops and a 7km long beach. I learnt how to make Crepes, visited the salt marshes and medieval towns. I also spent my time there at a fantastic bnb with a full of life Lady called Leo, she is uber cool and such a great host and now friend, all just 2min from the beach. It’s such a nice, clean and relaxing town the architecture is spectacular and the people are warm and very kind.
I then went on to Montsoreau Where I stayed in another bed and breakfast in a 16th century house with a room in the attic. My host Marjin was an Irish American retired school teacher that went above and beyond for me cooking amazing meals and sharing great conversations over aged wine from his wine cave. We visited his friends cave house also known as a Trogdolyte, built in an old quarry from many centuries ago. I visited Saumur and the castle and admired the small town and it’s beauty along the Loire River.
I then ventured to Langeais a small town with a population of 4000, a large chateaux and stayed the night with Shaun at Le clos Rabelois a large bnb in town. I enjoyed a meal at the local creperie ordering the “speciality of the region” an omelette with tourangelle which I think is some kind of tuna or pork not quite sure to be honest but it was delish.
I’ve spent the day relaxing at the bnb in great company been waited on (thanks Shaun) and I have managed make it to the station on time and with the right ticket. That’s a big deal for me, feels strange been so organised!! Now better go carnt miss the train the next ones not for 4h!!

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“Stop and smell the roses… “

So Europe has been such a knowledgable experience… I have had a history lesson like no other… If only at school were we all taken to Europe to learn first hand the histories of the world.
Like a visit to Saint Nazaire to see the submarine bunker to learn how the allies flattened the whole of the city in an attempt to drive the Germans out as they couldn’t destroy the 6m of concrete , funnily enough it was the last German occupied region in the world war. If only we had been taken to the statue of Napoleon in Norde de Calais in France to see how it had been built with his back to England. Now I understand when I’m told England had the largest boat shipyard, so when Napoleon found out about so he built and even bigger one also in Saint Nazaire called the Chantiers de l’Atlantique one that now builds the largest cruise ships in the world including the Queen Mary II , the longest , widest and tallest boat of its kind. They now have added building A380s to their repotior and I’m told the first one didn’t even make it off the ground and now calls the Atlantic Ocean home.

I have a deeper understanding of architecture, from visiting the German style houses of Obernai, France, to seeing the long roofed quaint houses of The north of France. Then there is the straw like roofs in the Normandie region, even with plants growing along the top. I have admired from above the red roofs of Lyon, the dark slate roofs of Brittany with houses so beautiful that only one could dream of calling home. There is the slim vertical houses in Amsterdam with staircases so narrow that all furniture has to be hooked up and brought through the windows. Then there is the chalets of Swizerland, the darkness of the wood symbolizing the age of the premise. All been strategically designed that they are in sync yet unique in their own little way.
I’ve even been fortunate enough to pay a visit to a medieval village Guérande from the 15th century owned by the Dukes of Brittany , the wall surrounding the city still complete with only gates opening at north, south, east and west. St Michel the entrance facing Nante is the most elaborate still bearing the bow and arrow vertical gaps in the stone and the crossbow and cannon holes further towards the centre. The houses inside are built wall to wall to keep the heat in, with minimal windows and highly decorated doorways. I’ve seen houses built in caves in Montsoreau in the Loire Valley. Once used to house the poor that worked in the caves drilling the stone out for the chateaus of the region. Now with electricity and water supply people quite happily call home.

I’ve learnt about the Jewish streets of Europe, I’ve learnt of the importance of using every part of the land to its best advantage. For example the marshes in the peninsula of the Bretan region hold salt marshes that was one of the main sources of wealth in the region, with marsh men who tend to their plots daily in the summer extracting the salt, over 300 men and even thought it was originally a women’s job only 10 women remain in the job.
I’ve seen countless fields in the north where the soil is rich and lush full of potatoes, canola, corn, beans and wheat. I’ve seen rocky almost vertical sloped vineyards in Switzerland to fields of hops plantations in Alsace and apple trees in Cornwall, England and Normandie, France.
When I first arrived I noticed the lack animals on the fields , only to learn they get to reside inside for the harsh European winter. There is even a parade to celebrate the beginning of spring in Switzerland where the cows are paraded down the road large cow bells around their necks decorated in flowers. The fields are now full of cows, black white and brown, yes I have witnessed alpacas much to my dismay , my first outdoor pig farm, hatched ducklings in my hand and oh so many fields with gorgeous horses and even the polo fields of La Baule, France.

I’ve learnt important traveller skills such as be sure to carry change on you when going to the toilet in a public place.
Use air bnb and stay with people, it’s a blessing to be invited into people’s houses and lives. You may even find they are happy to personally your guide you the way around the area. One thing I have learnt is people are very passionate and knowledgable about there country especially their region and it’s specialities.
To be sure to ask for help even if it’s in broken English and animated sign language, the amount of times I’ve been saved by the kindness of strangers will dumbfound you.
Make sure to follow the signs in the metro and the underground, download the apps and you will have it downpat in no time. Be sure when in Paris to jump on the metro pick a station and walk out and discover the sheer magic that’s Paris. Treat London Underground like a monopoly game, find your favorite station may it be Piccadilly, or maybe you prefer the punk side of life that’s Camden Town or my personal favorite if you have a couple hours to spare go catch a musical at Leicester square just don’t forget your bag!
Make sure u weight balance your bag correctly as death wobbles whilst dragging it can get awfully annoying.
I have become the master of layering clothes, one u never know what the weather is going to do so u can take off accordingly, also saves on washing you can change the look just by layering in a different order! Don’t leave your clothes too long in the dryers here as they come out 10 sizes too small especially bad when your having trouble fitting into them already after three months of the rich foods.
Be sure to let the locals order for you when you can they know best, try everything if u don’t like it well least u know for next time. Try all the beers and wine, actually maybe not the warm London cask beer that is definitely an acquired taste.

Remember to smile at everyone, attempt the language no matter how stuipid u sound least u will be of some entertainment and locals will be more helpful trust me.

Walk down roads even if you don’t know where they lead, it’s all part of the adventure and you never know what or who you might find along the way. To do something without thinking is the truest way of starting to understand ourselves. Sounds crazy right, however you can be taught so much in life the rest you need to experience for yourself.

Finally be sure to see, smell, touch, hear and best of all taste the whole experience that is Europe.

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” crêpes cusine… “

So today I went to Le Bateau Ivre, a Creperie Resturant in Le Pouliguen, France. I got to witness first hand how they are prepared and made fresh for the customers. First they have to make the mix, there is one Buckweat galette which is made from complete flour(picture below), a day before and kept refrigerated overnight and that’s for the savory Crepes. Then there is the sweet crepe made from flour, eggs, vanilla, Water and salt. This can be made just an hour before use.
The mixture is poured onto the special crepe hot plates using a “louche” it’s then smoothed out using a spatula over the whole surface of the hot plate. It takes about 6 seconds for the crepe to be ready, during this time it’s brushed with butter, filled with whatever your heart contends for sweet may it be the traditional beurre sucre (butter and sugar) or caramel, Nutella, chocolate and such creations as pear and chocolate or caramel and apple.
For the savory galette on the menu is various seafood varieties, pork and apple, ham and cheese and egg and or sausage just to name a few.
I also discovered there is more than one way to fold the crepe and that’s an art to itself, making sure it doesn’t stick to the customers plate is also a must.
I really enjoyed my time learning the art of Crepes and would like to thank all at Le Bateau Ivre for having me there to learn.

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